Guieb Café Overcomes Pandemic Odds to Open Three Restaurants on O‘ahu

2023 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award winner: Founder Ernesto Guieb finds success with favorites like ube mascarpone pancakes and adobo fried rice omelets.
05 23 Hb Best Of Small Business Hero 02 Guieb Cafe
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

In 2016, Ernesto Guieb officially launched Guieb Catering after 10 years of cooking for family and friends’ parties. Four years later, he and his family stepped it up by planning to open Guieb Cafe in Kalihi, their first brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The day after receiving the keys to the cafe, the pandemic hit.

“Governor Ige had announced the shutdown and we thought, ‘Do we sink or swim?’ ” says Precious Guieb, Ernesto’s oldest daughter, who helps with the restaurant’s front of house. “At that point, we decided to go with it.

“I think it all comes from my dad’s mindset. We do our best every day … with our hearts and our souls and see if the community reacts in a positive way, which they did.”

Guieb Cafe has since opened two more locations, in Wahiawā and ‘Aiea.

The cafe caters to each community’s tastes through its weekly specials that vary with each location, says Precious Guieb. Customer favorites on the regular menu include prime rib loco moco; ube mascarpone pancakes; and adobo fried rice omelet, which graduated from an off-and-on special to the regular menu because of high demand.

After seeing homelessness and hunger in its community, the Guieb family began giving out free food.

“We did a lot of either hot or cold food distribution,” says Precious Guieb, and at the Kalihi location, the family I gave out “bananas, eggs, bread, things like that because it was a hard time.”

“It’s honestly just something that we do just from the bottom of our hearts.”

During its growth, Guieb Cafe has expanded from having two hired employees to a team of 40 staff members. What remains a priority, Guieb says, is listening to employee feedback, providing good benefits, handing out employee awards and holding company events twice a year.

“I think that just goes back to how my family and I are. We love hanging out and spending time and we enjoy each other’s company. And so we’re kind of just reflecting what we do as a little smaller family with our bigger family in the cafe.”